It was a crazy idea, and people told him so.
“You’re a kid dude. There’s no way. You’ll get arrested. It won’t work. You’ll give up.”
Nonsense. All of it. Because where there is a dream, where there is energy, passion and dedication, there is success.
Rob’s one of those dreamers, and sometimes their heads are so full of ideas that there’s no room left for talk of impossible. He was going to skateboard from L.A. to his home town of Newmarket to raise awareness for cancer. The way he saw it was that if his mom was going to fight cancer, then he was going to join her in her struggle the best way he knew how: on a deck.
Of course it wasn’t just his legs that would push him along the epic distance; he has a past tragically scarred by the realities of cancer. Just like that, his loved ones had been taken from him by the disease. No more laughs, no more memory making, no more photos, nothing but a memory. They were gone, for no good reason.
Now when cancer comes along to tear apart your life and the lives of people you love, 8000 kilometers seems a whole lot less outrageous. And if you have to push a piece of wood with a couple of wheels that far in order to get kids talking, then you do it.
The LA to Toronto skate started in the third month of 2004, when Rob and a team of volunteers met in the city of angels and looked east. Their route would take them over the cliff-hanging highways of the winding California mountains, through the arid Arizona desert and across the roaring Mississippi.
But the journey wasn’t always hugs and peace signs. There were times of frustration, like living on the streets of New Orleans while he waited for a new vehicle to replace the tour bus they no longer had. After skating twelve hours in the heat, with the constant rush of big rigs blasting past him at 110 kilometers an hour, Rob slept in ditches and on benches so that he could recoup for the next day. And that day would often see him getting swiped by zooming cars or being harassed by stubborn authority.
Rob’s been heard saying that 99 percent of cops are amazing people and the rest are just confused. Quite a diplomatic statement for a guy who was pulled over by a Texas State Trooper who felt inclined to insult, demean and intimidate him. When the officer was finished lecturing, he actually spat his dirty chewing tobacco straight at Rob. Think about the irony there. And it wasn’t the first time police had hassled Rob. In fact, about once a day he dealt with law enforcement on some level, occasionally resulting in getting cuffed and tossed in the back of a cruiser.
These kind of situations forced Skate4Cancer to consider the social factors that contribute to the gnarliness of skateboarding -not jogging or biking- down a highway. It’s crazy that even though his ultimate goal was to get people on board, sometimes the only thing that stood between Rob and his dream was the very object he used to do it. He would often express confusion about feeling so passionate about his positive mission only to be misunderstood by so many people who accused him of being a criminal and a burden on society, simply because he was a skate rat.
Occasionally it got so intense that the cops would simply shut the team down altogether. After these kinds of situations, Rob had to get in the van and drive to the nearest major city, skipping the road he swore to skate. The team would clock the kilometers, and as soon as they arrived Rob would skate massive city circles until he’d made up for the losses. But he never got over the disappointment of driving along the highways he planned on skating, even though the Ks always got covered one way or another.
On top of that, if he was going to see the sign reading “Welcome to Newmarket”, he would first have to feel the throb of a pressure fracture in his left ankle. The doctor told him to stop, but he didn’t. So he skated on through the states, dealing with a tweaked body, getting his van robbed, being tossed to the ground by stray pebbles or speeding cars and facing so many other barriers. But always Rob could picture his family, the people who also struggled without the luxury of being able to quit. He didn’t stop because they never had the opportunity to end their struggle.
And finally, after a harrowing few months, 20 year old Rob Dyer skateboarded past the finish line in July 2004. He was exhausted, and despite having completed 8000 km of pushing he would describe the skate as a disappointment. Rob had set out to cover not just the distance but the actual road from L.A. to Newmarket. It wasn’t his fault and he was aware of that intellectually, but the vision hadn’t been entirely met in his eyes.
That feeling would ultimately play a major part in the story of Skate4Cancer though, eventually motivating Rob to set out on the next major marathon skate, but this time on his own turf.